From Disappearing Donkey To Toasted: The 136 Skin Colors Of Brazil

From Disappearing Donkey To Toasted: The 136 Skin Colors Of Brazil

The skin tones of Brazilians quite literally span the entire spectrum of possible human hues. Reflecting this are the 136 creative descriptions Brazilians came up with in a survey asking them to self-assess their color:

Acastanhada Somewhat chestnut-coloured
Agalegada Somewhat like a Galician
Alva Snowy white
Alva escura Dark snowy white
Alvarenta (not in dictionary; poss. dialect) Snowy white
Alvarinta Snowy white
Alva rosada Pinkish white
Alvinha Snowy white
Amarela Yellow
Amarelada Yellowish
Amarela-queimada Burnt yellow
Amarelosa Yellowy
Amorenada Somewhat dark-skinned
Avermelhada Reddish
Azul Blue
Azul-marinho Sea blue
Baiano From Bahia
Bem branca Very white
Bem clara Very pale
Bem morena Very dark-skinned
Branca White
Branca-avermelhada White going on for red
Branca-melada Honey-coloured white
Branca-morena White but dark-skinned
Branca-pálida Pale white
Branca-queimada Burnt white
Branca-sardenta Freckled white
Branca-suja Off-white
Branquiça Whitish
Branquinha Very white
Bronze Bronze-coloured
Bronzeada Sun-tanned
Bugrezinha-escura Dark-skinned India
Burro-quando-foge Disappearing donkey (i.e. nondescript) humorous
Cabocla Copper-coloured ( refers to civilized Indians)
Cabo-verde From Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)
Café Coffee-coloured
Café-com-leite Café au lait
Canela Cinnamon
Canelada Somewhat like cinnamon
Cardão Colour of the cardoon, or thistle (blue-violet)
Castanha Chestnut
Castanha-clara Light chestnut
Castanha-escura Dark chestnut
Chocolate Chocolate-coloured
Clara Light-coloured, pale
Clarinha Light-coloured, pale
Cobre Copper-coloured
Corada With a high colour
Cor-de-café Coffee-coloured
Cor-de-canela Cinnamon-coloured
Cor-de-cuia Gourd-coloured
Cor-de-leite Milk-coloured (i.e. milk-white)
Cor-de-ouro Gold-coloured (i.e. golden)
Cor-de-rosa Pink
Cor-firme Steady-coloured
Crioula Creole
Encerada Polished
Enxofrada Pallid
Esbranquecimento Whitening
Escura Dark
Escurinha Very dark
Fogoió Having fiery-coloured hair
Galega Galician or Portuguese
Galegada Somewhat like a Galician or Portuguese
Jambo Light-skinned (the colour of a type of apple)
Laranja Orange
Lilás Lilac
Loira Blonde
Loira-clara Light blonde
Loura Blonde
Lourinha Petite blonde
Malaia Malaysian woman
Marinheira Sailor-woman
Marrom Brown
Meio-amarela Half-yellow
Meio-branca Half-white
Meio-morena Half dark-skinned
Meio-preta Half-black
Melada Honey-coloured
Mestiça Half-caste/mestiza
Miscigenação Miscegenation
Mista Mixed
Morena Dark-skinned, brunette
Morena-bem-chegada Very nearly morena
Morena-bronzeada Sunburnt morena
Morena-canelada Somewhat cinnamon-coloured morena
Morena-castanha Chestnut-coloured morena
Morena-clara Light-skinned morena
Morena-cor-de-canela Cinnamon-coloured morena
Morena-jambo Light-skinned morena
Morenada Somewhat morena
Morena-escura Dark morena
Morena-fechada Dark morena
Morenão Dark-complexioned man
Morena-parda Dark morena
Morena-roxa Purplish morena
Morena-ruiva Red-headed morena
Morena-trigueira Swarthy, dusky morena
Moreninha Petite morena
Mulata Mulatto girl
Mulatinha Little mulatto girl
Negra Negress
Negrota Young negress
Pálida Pale
Paraíba From Paraíba
Parda Brown
Parda-clara Light brown
Parda-morena Brown morena
Parda-preta Black-brown
Polaca Polish woman
Pouco-clara Not very light
Pouco-morena Not very dark-complexioned
Pretinha Black – either young, or small
Puxa-para-branco Somewhat towards white
Quase-negra Almost negro
Queimada Sunburnt
Queimada-de-praia Beach sunburnt
Queimada-de-sol Sunburnt
Regular Regular, normal
Retinta Deep-dyed, very dark
Rosa Rose-coloured (or the rose itself)
Rosada Rosy
Rosa-queimada Sunburnt-rosy
Roxa Purple
Ruiva Redhead
Russo Russian
Sapecada Singed
Sarará Yellow-haired negro
Saraúba (poss. dialect) Untranslatable
Tostada Toasted
Trigo Wheat
Trigueira Brunette
Turva Murky
Verde Green
Vermelha Red

Below is the original story investigating race in Brazil.

13
Original post by Achal Prabhala on Screamer

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

Originally published in Africa Is A Country.

By the time you read this, it's possible that every single person on the planet will know who Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is.

This is Neymar from last week:

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

This is Neymar from one year ago:

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

This is Neymar from five years ago:

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

This is little Neymar with his family:

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

You could come to any number of conclusions from Neymar's remarkable transformation. For instance, you could conclude that race doesn't exist in Brazil, which is the favorite line of a specific tribe of Brazilians—impeccable liberals all, who just happen to be upper-class, white, and at the top of the heap.

Or you could conclude that everyone in Brazil is indeed mixed—which is, incidentally, the second-favorite line of the selfsame tribe.

Or you could wonder what happened to this boy.


It's too easy to condemn Neymar for pretending to be white: Judging by the images, he is partly white. It's silly to accuse him of denying his mixed-race ancestry, because the simplest search throws up hundreds of images of him as a child, none of which he seems to be ashamed of. There is this: When asked if he had ever been a victim of racism, he said, "Never. Neither inside nor outside the field. Because I'm not black, right?"

Actually, the word he used was preto, which is significant, since, in Brazil, when used as a color ascribed to people—rather than things, like rice or beans—it is the rough equivalent of the n-word, negro and negra being the acceptable ways of describing someone who is truly black (and moreno or morena being standard descriptors for someone dark-skinned, as well as, occasionally, euphemisms for blackness). Technically speaking, however, his logic was faultless—and even kind of interestingly honest: The Neymar who made that statement was an unworldly 18-year-old who had never lived outside Brazil. And in Brazil, Neymar is not black.


In 1976, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics ran a household survey that marked a crucial departure from other census exercises. The Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD) did not ask Brazilians to choose a race category among pre-determined choices; instead, researchers went out and asked people to describe the color they thought they were.

This is what came back.

Acastanhada Somewhat chestnut-coloured
Agalegada Somewhat like a Galician
Alva Snowy white
Alva escura Dark snowy white
Alvarenta (not in dictionary; poss. dialect) Snowy white
Alvarinta Snowy white
Alva rosada Pinkish white
Alvinha Snowy white
Amarela Yellow
Amarelada Yellowish
Amarela-queimada Burnt yellow
Amarelosa Yellowy
Amorenada Somewhat dark-skinned
Avermelhada Reddish
Azul Blue
Azul-marinho Sea blue
Baiano From Bahia
Bem branca Very white
Bem clara Very pale
Bem morena Very dark-skinned
Branca White
Branca-avermelhada White going on for red
Branca-melada Honey-coloured white
Branca-morena White but dark-skinned
Branca-pálida Pale white
Branca-queimada Burnt white
Branca-sardenta Freckled white
Branca-suja Off-white
Branquiça Whitish
Branquinha Very white
Bronze Bronze-coloured
Bronzeada Sun-tanned
Bugrezinha-escura Dark-skinned India
Burro-quando-foge Disappearing donkey (i.e. nondescript) humorous
Cabocla Copper-coloured ( refers to civilized Indians)
Cabo-verde From Cabo Verde (Cape Verde)
Café Coffee-coloured
Café-com-leite Café au lait
Canela Cinnamon
Canelada Somewhat like cinnamon
Cardão Colour of the cardoon, or thistle (blue-violet)
Castanha Chestnut
Castanha-clara Light chestnut
Castanha-escura Dark chestnut
Chocolate Chocolate-coloured
Clara Light-coloured, pale
Clarinha Light-coloured, pale
Cobre Copper-coloured
Corada With a high colour
Cor-de-café Coffee-coloured
Cor-de-canela Cinnamon-coloured
Cor-de-cuia Gourd-coloured
Cor-de-leite Milk-coloured (i.e. milk-white)
Cor-de-ouro Gold-coloured (i.e. golden)
Cor-de-rosa Pink
Cor-firme Steady-coloured
Crioula Creole
Encerada Polished
Enxofrada Pallid
Esbranquecimento Whitening
Escura Dark
Escurinha Very dark
Fogoió Having fiery-coloured hair
Galega Galician or Portuguese
Galegada Somewhat like a Galician or Portuguese
Jambo Light-skinned (the colour of a type of apple)
Laranja Orange
Lilás Lilac
Loira Blonde
Loira-clara Light blonde
Loura Blonde
Lourinha Petite blonde
Malaia Malaysian woman
Marinheira Sailor-woman
Marrom Brown
Meio-amarela Half-yellow
Meio-branca Half-white
Meio-morena Half dark-skinned
Meio-preta Half-black
Melada Honey-coloured
Mestiça Half-caste/mestiza
Miscigenação Miscegenation
Mista Mixed
Morena Dark-skinned, brunette
Morena-bem-chegada Very nearly morena
Morena-bronzeada Sunburnt morena
Morena-canelada Somewhat cinnamon-coloured morena
Morena-castanha Chestnut-coloured morena
Morena-clara Light-skinned morena
Morena-cor-de-canela Cinnamon-coloured morena
Morena-jambo Light-skinned morena
Morenada Somewhat morena
Morena-escura Dark morena
Morena-fechada Dark morena
Morenão Dark-complexioned man
Morena-parda Dark morena
Morena-roxa Purplish morena
Morena-ruiva Red-headed morena
Morena-trigueira Swarthy, dusky morena
Moreninha Petite morena
Mulata Mulatto girl
Mulatinha Little mulatto girl
Negra Negress
Negrota Young negress
Pálida Pale
Paraíba From Paraíba
Parda Brown
Parda-clara Light brown
Parda-morena Brown morena
Parda-preta Black-brown
Polaca Polish woman
Pouco-clara Not very light
Pouco-morena Not very dark-complexioned
Pretinha Black – either young, or small
Puxa-para-branco Somewhat towards white
Quase-negra Almost negro
Queimada Sunburnt
Queimada-de-praia Beach sunburnt
Queimada-de-sol Sunburnt
Regular Regular, normal
Retinta Deep-dyed, very dark
Rosa Rose-coloured (or the rose itself)
Rosada Rosy
Rosa-queimada Sunburnt-rosy
Roxa Purple
Ruiva Redhead
Russo Russian
Sapecada Singed
Sarará Yellow-haired negro
Saraúba (poss. dialect) Untranslatable
Tostada Toasted
Trigo Wheat
Trigueira Brunette
Turva Murky
Verde Green
Vermelha Red

Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, an anthropologist at the University of São Paulo, has a range of astonishing insights around this historic survey; her paper, " Not black, not white: just the opposite. Culture, race and national identity in Brazil," from which the table above is reproduced, is a gem. (She also has a book that examines the early history of the subject: The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930.)

Schwarcz's work is filled with thoughtful, original analysis, and is characterized by an unusual fearlessness. (Unusual, that is, for a subject so complicated). Reading her is a revelation; it turns out there is a real place hiding under that avalanche of clichés. If you've ever wondered how crushing racism can flourish in a country where, apparently, race itself has been crushed, consider that everything Brazil is defined by—from its "we are all mixed" anthem, to feijoada, capoeira, and candomblé, right down to samba and soccer—is the result of an insidious, revisionist, far-sighted political maneuver of the 1930s, courtesy the combined skills of popular intellectual Gilberto Freyre and populist dictator Getúlio Vargas. The battered body of slave culture was abducted by national culture in order to renew white culture.

Among the many eye-popping results reported in the PNAD survey, the one I am most drawn to is burro quando foge. You'll find it up there in the table at No. 34. Google inexplicably translates the phrase as "saddle," which is awesome, since it means that Lusofonia still keeps some secrets beyond the reach of the behemoth. Burro quando foge is translated by Schwarcz, within the constraints of a column slot, as "the disappearing donkey" and explained as a humorous phrase that denotes a nondescript color.

Which it is—and then some. The metaphor is unique to Brazil, and signifies a color. That color could be nondescript, ill-defined, elusive, or ugly—and, just to make things really clear, also fawn, beige, or a tricky shade of brown. The sentiment conveyed in the phrase is just as interesting. Used between friends, it could pass for a joke. Otherwise, it almost always denotes something unpleasant. It's usually used an insult, although—oddly enough, given the colors and sentiments—it's not specifically a racial insult.

Of all the 136 colors of race in Brazil, this is my favorite. It's flippant and factual and fictional all at once, and as such, suits me perfectly. Race is not a term that has much currency in India, where I live. It is, however, a central feature of Johannesburg and São Paulo, the two cities I occasionally work in, and as much as I'm aware of how privileged I am not to be wholly subject to it, I feel curiously bereft of race in both places. Certainly, I grew up with color: Being a dark-skinned child in a uniformly light-skinned family meant that I had to regularly contend with well-meaning relatives who'd pinch my cheeks and chide me for "losing my color"—as though my skin tone was something I had brought upon myself in a fit of absent-mindedness. To choose a race then: Indian might work for some people, but it is both my passport and my residence, and that's quite enough. Brown is too generic, and black, a bit too unbelievable, all things considered. Given that I spent my childhood reading Gerald Durrell and dreaming of donkeys, adopting their color seems right in so many ways.


And where does that leave our boy wonder? We might start with the Estado Novo, Vargas's authoritarian reign between 1937 and 1945. Only a few years earlier, Freyre had published the crowning achievement of his career, Casa-Grande e Senzala (The Big House and the Slave Quarters, released in English as The Masters and the Slaves), and the book was catching fire. Freyre's central theory was something he called Lusotropicalism. It told a soothing story of the past (by casting the Portuguese as a kinder, gentler breed of imperial slaver), offered a handy solution for the present (by turning the mixing of races into a virtue),and held out an appealing conclusion, namely, the idea that Brazil was a racial democracy.

Upon publication, Freyre's work immediately attracted the ire of the Portuguese nation for suggesting her citizens were prone to miscegenation. At home, however, it became Vargas's blueprint for the country he had seized—and his strategy for political survival. Three quarters of a century later, Freyre's big think remains the enduring idea of Brazil, an idea whose appeal grows in leaps and bounds across the globe and, to be sure, often escapes the clutches of its creators to dazzling effect. Still, consider the irony: The country's sense of itself as a racial democracy was smuggled in to its soul by an autocracy.

The term Estado Novo refers to a few different periods of dictatorship, and it literally translates as "new state," which is prophetic, since the words also describe a peculiar duty that is incumbent upon at least half the Brazilian population. That duty, of course, is the business of branqueamento—of whitening—of transforming, quite literally, into a new physical state. (For all his pro-miscegenation advocacy, Schwarcz notes in The Spectacle of the Races, Freyre was as keen as his critics on keeping the structure of Brazil intact: as a hierarchy with whiteness on top). In that sense, Neymar is only the latest in a long line of celebrities and Brazilians of lesser value who get it. Who get the fine print on the contract; who understand that national identity rests on racial harmony, which, in turn, rests on a kind of potential access to opportunity. Not the opportunity to be equal, mind you, but the opportunity to be white. We may gawk at him all we like, but in straightening his hair, extending it out, and dyeing it blond, Neymar was fulfilling his patriotic destiny just as surely as he was confounding the Croats and leading his team to victory last month.


I'll venture that the disappearing donkey colour fits Neymar to a T. After all, he is both undoubtedly and elusively brown. Yes, there is the matter of his blond ambition. O burro fugiu, we might well ask—has the donkey left the building? I'd really like to think not. For one thing, the boy's only 22. He's got a whole lifetime to change his mind—and his hair. For another, I've got a whole World Cup to watch. Have a heart. I spend hours every week learning Brazilian Portuguese; I'm devoted to the country; and I come from Bangalore, a city in which Pelé is god. I do not mean this metaphorically. In a neighborhood called Gowthampura, around the corner from where I live, residents have erected a lovely shrine to four local icons—the Buddha, Dr. Ambedkar, Mother Teresa, and the striker from Santos.

The Whitening Of Neymar: How Color Is Lived In Brazil

So you see, my hands are tied. I've got my own patriotic destiny to fulfill, and it involves rooting for Brazil, which means I'm going to need to love Neymar a lot.

I can do it.

Anyway, donkeys are famously stubborn animals. They're good at waiting.


Achal Prabhala is a writer and researcher in Bangalore, India. Bottom photo via Flickr. Neymar game photos via Getty.

Screamer is Deadspin's soccer site. We're @ScreamerDS on Twitter. We'll be partnering with our friends at Howler Magazine throughout the World Cup. Follow them on Twitter, @whatahowler.

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